Imagine a traveling shoe salesman picking up the phone in the Super 8 Motel in Pocatello. It’s the wife calling after she has read the sports page. “Why don’t you fly home every night to be with me, like Phil Mickelson?” PACIFIC PALISADES – Phil Mickelson plans to commute from San Diego by private plane during the Nissan Open so he can spend every night with his family. Mickelson might be the most popular golfer on the pro tour. But he is inviting the resentment of husbands who look forward to their own business trips as little breaks from the wife and kids. “Because I don’t make $47million a year like Phil Mickelson.” “That’s the next thing I was going to complain about.” Mickelson is a traveling shoe salesman, too, in a manner of speaking. He endorses the Callaway ERC Collection. The difference is his meetings happen at places like Riviera Country Club, where the 81st Nissan Open begins at 7 a.m. and runs through Sunday. His rent-a-car is a private jet. Even among the mega-rich at the top of the PGA Tour standings, the 36-year-old known as Lefty is a little different. He sets his own vector. The latest example is what he’s doing this week. A 110-mile commute from Rancho Santa Fe to Pacific Palisades, with takeoffs and landings at the small airports in Carlsbad and Santa Monica. “It feels great,” Mickelson said of this week’s commute as he stood beside the Riviera driving range before the pro-am Wednesday. “Sometimes I’ll do this, where I’ll fly up to maybe Cypress to play a round of golf for a day. It has that feel of just being exciting to go play a great golf course. “And it’s not a very long commute. And it gives me a chance to practice at home on some of my drills at the facilities that I’m used to working on.” And to be with Amy. And to tuck in Amanda, Sophia and Evan. Mickelson said he’ll take off each morning “about two hours before I tee off … It’s only about an hour door-to-door.” Maybe a little more than an hour. Forty minutes in the air, 15 minutes or so on the road on either end, according to Mickelson spokesman T.R. Reinmen. If this seems like a lot of trouble, it isn’t. Mickelson could get home faster than those who have to drive on Sunset Boulevard and the 405. “If I had a plane, I’d probably do it too,” said Charley Hoffman, the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic winner who also is a San Diegan – but trails Mickelson in Tour career earnings $40.5 million to $2.1million. Look at it this way: Mickelson, who never met a fairway bunker he wouldn’t try to fly over, feels the same way about Orange County. The only surprise is that he isn’t flying the Gulfstream II jet he owns and pilots; it’s too big for such a short hop. Phil is renting a Cessna Citation and a pilot for the week. You can do this when, according to Forbes magazine, you earned $47 million between mid-2005 and mid-2006, a stretch that included PGA Championship and Masters triumphs and the second-place, come-from-ahead, “I’m such an idiot” U.S. Open. That income ranks Mickelson fourth in sports behind Tiger Woods ($90 million), Michael Schumacher and Muhammad Ali. Does his jet-setter’s commute mean Mickelson is less committed to the Nissan Open than an opponent who returns to a Brentwood hotel each night and broods about the day’s missed birdie putts? Maybe so, but that assumes that most of his opponents actually go straight back to the hotel and turn in early. What Mickelson is doing has to be better for his game than a night on the town. Mickelson’s decision to take a break from competition between September and January doesn’t look so bad. He has no team to answer to, only sponsors. He looks and sounds focused. Slimmed down from last season, Mickelson started 2007 slowly, failing to crack the top40 in his first threetournaments, before going 20-under par to dominate last week at Pebble Beach. It was his 30th Tour win, tied for 16th all-time (next on the ladder with 31 are Nissan winners “Lighthorse” Harry Cooper and Jimmy Demaret). Mickelson was a last-minute entrant at Riviera, where he hasn’t played since 2001 and hasn’t done better that a tie for 15th. He’s hoping to keep his Pebble Beach momentum. “I felt like I started to play better, even though the results weren’t showing it in Phoenix (where he missed the cut),” Mickelson said. “I wanted to get a couple of more good tournaments under my belt before we started the Masters push back on the East Coast. … What better place to test yourself off the tee than here at Riviera?” It’s almost like being at home. In fact, with that plane, it’s exactly like being at home. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!